Tight race may lead to Turkey election runoff
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is locked in a tight election race, with a make-or-break runoff against his main challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. (May 15)
A runoff between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main rival, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, appeared likely Monday following a tight election race in Turkey.
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With the unofficial count nearly completed, support for Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for 20 years with an increasingly authoritarian grip, dipped below the majority required for him to win reelection outright. Erdogan had 49.4% of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu had 45%, according to the state-run news agency Anadolu.
If neither candidate secures the 50% needed, a second vote will take place in about two weeks.
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Voters in Turkey were largely concerned about domestic issues such as the economy, civil rights and a February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people. But Western nations and investors also awaited the outcome. Turkey’s main benchmark stock index fell more than 6% in early trading Monday as investors absorbed the uncertain election results, before recovering to trade about 3% down.
The election could determine if a NATO ally that straddles Europe and Asia but borders Syria and Iran remains under Erdogan’s control. He has raised the country’s profile internationally but also eroded its democratic institutions and implemented unorthodox economic policies that have rocked the nation’s economy. Turkey is one of the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. Kilicdaroglu has promised to restore stability to Turkey’s economy, foster better relations with the U.S. and other western allies and return the country to a more democratic path. He would also likely put the mostly Muslim nation on a more secular course compared to Erdogan.
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Erdogan vs. Kilicdaroglu: Who has the edge?
Both sides have projected confidence that they can win any runoff.
“If our nation has chosen for a second round, that is also welcome,” Erdogan, 69, said early Monday, noting that votes from Turkish citizens living abroad still need to be tallied. He garnered 60% of the overseas vote in 2018.
“We will absolutely win the second round … and bring democracy” Kilicdaroglu, 74, the candidate of a six-party alliance, said, arguing that Erdogan had lost the trust of a nation now demanding change.
However, Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor of Middle East history and politics at St. Lawrence University in New York, said Erdogan would probably have an advantage in a runoff because the president’s party was likely to do better in a parliamentary election also held Sunday. Voters would not want a “divided government,” he said.
Contributing: Associated Press